Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Digital Media issues

I started this as a rant on the woes of the ever-increasing space demands of digital media, but turned into a sort of primer.

Digital Photos

Do you use a digital camera? Do you scan in your film photos? If so, and you've been doing this for any length of time, then you know how much fun it is keeping photo files organized and backed up.

You're not backing up your photos? Please start now. Copy them to another hard drive, put them on a CD or a DVD. Something. Anything. You can lose pictures forever if you do not have a backup plan.

If you copy some photos to an optical disk of some kind, don't rely on that as the only copy. The CD's and DVD's you create today are not infallible. I've placed a CD in my drive, and other drives, only to find that the data on it is inaccessible. I was lucky it was only some freeware I could download again, but it could just as easily have been photos.

So, you say that storing all those photos is starting to take up too much space? The moment you copy photos from your camera onto your computer, before you've deleted them from the memory card, look through them and weed out the pictures you do not want. This should not be hard for most folks, as even the pros shoot frame upon frame to get the "right" shot. This can save an enormous amount of space. If you do not do it right away, then you probably will not do it.

Once you have weeded out the pics you don't want, make a second copy of the keepers somewhere (remember that backup I was talking about). Then, and only then, should you clear the memory card, and you should do that within the camera, not with your computer. Otherwise, you can end up with a card that the camera will not read correctly.

You can, of course, weed through the pictures in the camera, before you even copy them to the hard drive. If you have a large number of pictures, though, this can be fairly time-consuming and you cannot always tell from the small LCD whether a picture is a keeper.

Digital Video

Do you shoot digital video and then download it to your computer? If so, then all of the above apply, but deleting the parts you don't want is trickier. You can use a video editor to cut them down, and then save the final cut onto the hard drive. Windows Movie Maker 2 (freely downloadable from Microsoft) is pretty good. Otherwise, use something like Pinnacle Studio or another of the products in that range. Mac users, you have the excellent iMovie. Enough said there.

Then, if you have the capability, output your edited video to DVD. Most modern DVD players will play DVD's you make yourself, and it is a great way to share you videos. Remember, though, that your miniDV camera records an image that is higher quality than a DVD, so just paying someone to archive your tapes to DVD will result in quality loss. Many people do not know that.

I encourage you to keep the original, whether on tape or on the hard drive. If you keep every minute of all your originals on a hard drive, then you will start using up hard drive space very quickly. I recommend you keep the original tapes and just buy a new tape when you fill one. Sure, archive the best moments to avoid losing them to tape damage and/or degradation, but keep the original tapes, too. Until there is some inexpensive way of archiving the full-quality original, that seems the best way to do it.

This obviously is not meant as a comprehensive guide, but it was on my mind, and that's why I have a blog.


Jim said...

Good overview of the problems with digital media, Mark.

I know what you mean ... managing my digital media is a real headache. Since I bought my digital camera, I find that I take about 10 times more pictures than before, but print out about 10 times less (which my wife complains about frequently). That's the whole reason I started my gallery and blog; because otherwise the only people who saw my pictures were me and the few family members I occasionally emailed copies to.

Now I keep almost all of the pictures I take, but I do minimally filter the ones I post to the gallery. It's workable now because my camera is a 3.1 megapixel... but space will start to be a problem when I buy my long coveted Nikon D70 !

Digital video is a horse of a different color. My backlog of videos I want to digitalize and convert to DVD is huge... but I currently barely have disk space on my laptop to capture a half-hour tape, let alone archive it. I have a couple of external disks that I use to back up files, but I'll have to get a pair of 200 Gb disks to really be able to start doing any serious work.

Mark said...

You nailed it, bud. I can call you "bud" even though we've never met, right? Good.

My wife is the photo album queen, and the distinct lack of actual prints since we've gone digital has her in an uproar. We hit the jackpot when we finally took in about 180 pics for printing at the local Wal-Mart, which had just dropped its prints to $0.19 each. The were excellent prints, too, which surprised us.

The online photo album is the one thing that has saved me from her wringing my neck. The thrill of that format was brought home to us when Ben was born and family members could comment on the online photo album. Everybody got a kick out of reading the feedback.

Um, I have a D100. Nanner, nanner, nanner. Got it the Christmas before they released the D70. The D70 is superior in most ways that matter to me -- oh well. I hope you get one. Having the responsiveness of an SLR in a digital camera is priceless. I can barely get it away from my wife!

I know what you mean about digitizing the analog tapes. Our first year or so of Ben's videos were on Hi8, and I've converted very little of it. It's all just very time consuming. It's almost like you need to choose either still or video and live with it, except for very special occasions.

Dave said...

Good points bud! I have to back up again soon!